When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with knee cancer called Osteosarcoma in my right knee. I only got to attend Silverado High School (Victorville, CA) during my freshman year.
I didn’t understand why I had to suffer, sacrifice my body and be forced to deal with this difficult ordeal at such a young age.
While on chemotherapy, I had to get a knee replacement. I was able to return back to high school in my sophomore and junior year, but in my senior year. The cancer came back in my right knee at 17 years old. I had to undergo chemotherapy all over again, and had to get my right leg amputated (hip amputee).
Chapter 1: Nas’ Stillmatic Album (2000-present)
Before I got sick I was able to buy my own music and I was into Hip-Hop that was popular on the radio at the time, which was Hip-Hop artist's from Cash Money Records and Ruff Ryders.
When I was doing my chemotherapy regimen going to and from the Loma Linda Hospital (Loma Linda, CA) for three, five and seven days every other week. I felt since I was going through a life changing event that could drastically change my life forever. It was a necessity for me to listen to music with substance and had a message.
When Nas’ Stillmatic album came out it was just what I needed, and it came out at the perfect time. This was Nas’ comeback album and he had to redeem himself from his last album, Nastradamus. The album started with Stillmatic (The Intro), which set the tone for the rest of the album when he said “Blood of a Slave, Heart of a King.”
In my opinion, Stilmatic (The Intro) is the definition of a perfect Hip-Hop song. For instance, it’s soulful, sampling Stacy Lattisaw’s “Let me be Your Angel.” Nas was talking about how the music industry left him for dead, and he reminded his listeners to not forget what he has done for the genre of Hip-Hop music.
When Nas said, “This is the rebirth. I know the streets thirst water like Moses, walking through the hot desert, searching to be free. This is my ending and new beginning – nostalgia.”
When I heard those lyrics for the first time, it was like I got hit by a ton of bricks. This song along with the rest of the album’s socially-conscious message single handedly gave me the mindset to believe that I could beat cancer.
Chapter 2: The Pharcyde's Labcabincalifornia Album (2008-present)
I was at Victor Valley College and about to transfer to California State University, Long Beach to finish my undergraduate studies. At the time, I was still trying my find my new identity because I wasn’t the same person I once was because my right leg was gone forever.
I came across The Pharcyde by pure accident. I was heavy into Lupe Fiasco’s music and I saw an interview with him on YouTube. During the interview the name “Pharcyde” came up. I remembered that name and knew who the group was, but wasn’t that familiar with their music.
I checked out their song “Runnin’ ", and I couldn’t believe how incredible it was. The song was about dealing with pure pressure, fame and how important it is to be yourself. This group and their music was different from everything else I’ve ever heard in Hip-Hop, and I loved the vibes throughout their Labcabincalifornia album.
The Pharcyde instantly became my favorite Hip-Hop group, and even though they only had two albums as a fully functioning group. In my opinion, they are the most talented group who never got the chance to reach their full potential.
Chapter 3: inFAMOUS and inFAMOUS 2 (2009-present)
I got accepted into CSULB during the 2008-2009 school year, and unfortunately I was put on academic probation. The university threatened to kick me out of school if I had another bad semester. It was a difficult and depressing time for me because I was struggling to keep my grades up.
At the end of the school year, a video game entitled “inFAMOUS” was going to be released, and it changed my life for the better. The game is about superhero main protagonist (main character) Cole MacGrath who is an ordinary bike messenger who gains electrical superpowers when a package he delivers explodes.
I connected with the way Cole handled his dramatic experience of being forced to control electricity, because I was forced to have knee cancer twice during my teen years.
During the introduction of the game, Cole was in the hospital hooked up to an IV pole with his girlfriend Trish and best friend Zeke by his bedside. Similar to me when I was in the hospital at 14 years old (1999-2000) hooked up to an IV pole with my Grandmother and Uncle by my bedside.
When I saw that connection between Cole and myself. I felt that the developers, Sucker Punch Productions specially made inFAMOUS for me because the image from their game was almost an identical match to the image of myself when I was 14 years old.
The inFAMOUS video game franchise and Cole Macgrath gave me hope, which is why I'm looking forward to share my experience with the world as an inspirational speaker.
Chapter 4: Blu & Exile's Give me my Flowers While I Could Still Smell Them and Below the Heavens Album’s (2012-present)
I also came across Blu & Exile by pure accident by talking to a friend on Facebook about Hip-Hop music, and he brought up “Blu” who at the time I’ve never heard of before.
The first album I ever bought and listened to from this duo was their second album “Give me my Flowers While I Could Still Smell Them.” I went into the album without any expectations because I wasn’t familiar with the duo's past work. I connected with Blu’s easy going demeanor, the substance within his songs and Exile’s beautiful atmosphere of beats.
The song “More out of Life” is my favorite song from the album because it’s very relatable. I’m always wanting more out of life, even though life could be difficult sometimes.
After listening to the duo's second album. I listened to their first album Below the Heavens and understood why fans gave this album such high praise.
In my opinion, I connected to the songs and subject matter of what Blu was talking about more on Give me my Flowers While I Could Still Smell Them compared to the songs on Below the Heavens.
One song off the Below the Heavens album, “Below the Heavens Pt. 1,” which was one of the best lyrically skilled and conscious Hip-Hop songs I’ve ever heard.
When Blu said, “Understand first hell is what you choose to call the present. That’s why you are going through it, I just choose to call it stressin’. To tell you fools the truth, I don’t feel that’s why I’m destined. So you could call it hell, but bruh… I can say I’m below the heavens.”
Blu & Exile came into life during the end of my college career at CSULB. I was so close to graduating and this duo’s music helped me to not stress to much about being on academic probation, because I was on it my whole college career. I eventually graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Minor in Africana Studies in 2012.
Conclusion: Special Thanks
Nas, The Pharcyde and Blu & Exile. For their honesty, encouraging lyrics about knowing yourself worth and that everything will be alright as you keep moving forward and not dwell on the past.
Click here to listen to my favorite songs, and disclaimer: language is present.
Nas: Stillmatic (The Intro)
The Pharyde: Runnin'
Blu & Exile: Below the Heavens Pt. 1
Blu & Exile: More out of Life
inFAMOUS and inFAMOUS 2. Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) for giving Sucker Punch Productions the resources to create the inFAMOUS franchise and Cole MacGrath.
Sucker Punch Productions for creating Cole MacGrath. A character that was an ordinary person, but still being able to overcome extra ordinary adversities.
I do not own any content from the images displayed from inFAMOUS (2009) and inFAMOUS 2 (2011).
No Copyright Intended. All image content is copyright to their respective owners. All content is property of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), developed by Sucker Punch Productions.
I do not own any content from the songs and album covers from the artist's displayed from Nas, The Pharcyde and Blu & Exile.
No Copyright Intended. All image and song content is copyright to their respective owners. All Rights go to Nas, The Pharcyde and Blu & Exile.